Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Countdown

Well, here I am, stuck at school watching my students take a quiz on simplifying radicals.  You remember radicals, right?  You know, these fun little things √  ∛  ∜, square root, cube root, fourth root, etc.  It's not my most favourite thing to teach.  For one thing, you have to find a good way to teach kids that a fractional exponent is the same thing a root function.  It's one of those things that, no matter how hard you try or what different approach you use, it just doesn't sink in.  This year was better than most but they are still struggling.  Of course, being that there is only one more day before winter break (Yes, I know, the rest of the northern hemisphere is already on break!  BASTARDS!!) the level of learning is shallow at best) you really can't blame the poor things.  They are really tired, we teachers are really tired; everyone needs a rest.  But not here in the Beaverton School District!  We work and learn until the BITTER END!  Oh, did I mention that every other school district in the Portland Metro Area is already on break?  Yeah, there's a nice factoid!  So, here we sit, the last bastion of learning in the Portland area, simplifying radicals.

Do I sound bitter or just tired?  I'm going for tired.  A pot of coffee sounds amazing.

Okay, enough about work.  Let's move on to Christmas.  I don't know if you realize it but I am a Christmas Monster.  Seriously, I love it AND everything has to be just right.  Jeff has learned, after 23 years, to just get out of my way and go with the flow.  This, of course, includes the Christmas baking.  There are several must haves during Christmas at our house, Snicker Doodles, Hazel Berries, Pfeffernusse, Fruit Cake, Date Cookies, Cranberry Orange Bread, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies...and the list goes on.  One of my must haves is Christmas Stollen.  I think this is probably my most favourite Christmas treat, soft brioche bread filled with booze soaked fruit and bits of citron.  Of course, it's a labour of love since it takes all freaking day to make it.  Here's a quick rundown:

1.  Take an ungodly amount of currants and raisins (ummm over two cups each) soak them in booze, because, you know, it's Christmas.

2.  Mix in dried apricots, almonds, candied citron, the peel of four oranges (yes four) and the zest of two lemons.  I know, it doesn't seem like enough, a mere five pounds of filling, but trust me, it works.

3.  Next comes the flour.....wait for it....11 cups.  Oh and you have to shift it with the other dry ingredients.  Have you tried sifting 11 cups of flour?

4.  Proof three packets of yeast, lightly beat six eggs and warm two cups of milk. (super easy!)

5.  Melt a CUP AND A HALF OF BUTTER.  Did you notice how much butter is in here?  Ummmm...butter.  Hmmmm....butter.  God, I love butter.

(So, I'm hoping that you are seeing how this is so amazing.  It starts with butter and booze.  Only the creator could have come up with such an amazing combination!)

6.  Mix, kneed, add boozy fruit, mix and kneed some more.

7.  Put in a buttered bowl and let it rise for about two hours.  See, super easy!  (Notice that the pictures are now happening with the stollen in the oven.  That's because my kitchen looks like a bag of flour exploded in it.  But, Damn, my oven looks amazing!)

8.  And now, the magic of three packages of yeast is apparent.  Look at how lovely and poofy it is.  My oven has a proof setting and I LOVE IT! 

9) Punch it down, roll it out, fold it up and let it rise for a second time (Yes, my kitchen still looks like a bag of flour exploded in it.)

10.  Look!  Big and poofy again!  (You may also notice that the pictures are taking place on the counter tops again.  Yup, I cleaned!)

11.  Bake for 35 minutes.

AHHHHHH!!!  Here are two of the four loaves.  Now the recipe says to dust with powdered sugar.  However, I'm not a big powdered sugar fan; so, that's not going to ever happen to my stollen.  The flavour of these improve over time and can stay wrapped up on your counter for up to three weeks.  They also freeze really well.  Jeff and I are already halfway through one loaf.  Yumm.

So, let's move past baking and on to poodles.  I wanted to clear up a misconception that people have about poodles and their lack of shedding.  Most people just swoon over the fact that poodles don't shed.  "OMG!  You must never have to vacuum up dog hair.  That is amazing!"  Ummmm...short answer..No!  What most people don't realize is that all of those lovely soft curls on poodles are like velcro...velcro for all of the detritus of the outside world. I vacuum CONSTANTLY!  Here is a pictorial example.

This is my girl Ruth.  She looks a bit of a mess in this picture, mostly because she had a busy day chasing ball and playing with Busy Betty (you remember her from my last post). 
Anyway, I took this picture after picking a pile of vegetal material out of her coat.

Ruth is on my right and this pile of sticks is on my left.  That pile is the treasure that I removed from her coat (Yes that's a glass of wine and, yes, I'm using it to cope with my eight poodles and my constant cleaning).  Now, you need to understand that this pile represents just a small portion of the outside world that my girls bring in to share with me and Jeff.  Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate nature; I'm just not wild about it in my house.  Seriously, five minutes after vacuuming, my girls are tracking in several hundred pine needles and about a half a pound of leaves and sticks.

But, I still love them!  Look at their faces!

Aren't they so sweet?!

Okay, time for some knitting?  We all love knitting.  Here is some fun eye candy.

This is what Knit Picks called "Electric Sweater" or what I called "Top Down Colour Block Sweater."
Hmmm...I think their name wins....clever bastards!

Now, this sweater is my take on a top down seamless knit.  It's SUPER easy to knit up.  The only techniques that you need to familiarize yourself with are provisional cast on and short rows.  The provisional cast on happens with the collar and the short rows happen with the back and the shoulder caps.  Other than that, it's just straight knitting.

The nice thing about this pattern is that it lends itself to improvisation.  Instead of colour blocks, do texture blocks.  Be bold and throw some cables in there.  Hell take a more conservative approach and treat it like a gansey.  Hell, when you join the front and back, throw some fair isle in there!  There are a lot of possibilities with this one.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Please Stab Me In The FACE!

Oh My God!  Teaching middle school children right before winter break is a trip into hell.  Well, maybe not Hell, hell but pretty close.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love my kids this year.  They are super sweet and will do almost anything to do the right thing.  However, when middle school children are getting close to winter break, small demons begin to possess them.  I imagine something soft and cute yet EXTREMELY irritating.  Maybe something like this felt Krampus.  It also fits with the winter break theme. 
Actually, I'm teaching class right now.  We finished our lesson and they are supposed to be working on their homework.  Instead of being focused, they are doing one or more of the following:  talking, tearing paper into little bits, throwing those same bits of paper, drawing, drawing on someone's notes, drawing on someone's person, making fun of someone's name, figuring out which one of them looks most like an Oompa Loompa, texting their mom, putting their hair in a ponytail on top of their head, talking in baby talk and reading a book.  Oh wait, and doing their homework.  I actually had at least one out of 17 doing what they should be doing.

Now, please don't think that I'm just sitting here letting the demons run amuck.  I actually did police them for the first 15 minutes of homework completion time.  However, since it's the end of the day, I finally threw in the towel the last five minutes and started typing this post..... OH WAIT!  I forgot to mention that I have these demonic cherubs the last class of the day on the last week before winter break.  So, this makes it double Hell hell!  So, please stab me in the face.  It will be less painful than the rest of this week.

Little do you know but my middle school day will continue when I get home.  As you know, I have eight standard poodles.  We used to have seven until the addition of this one:

This is Betty and she is a very confident BUSY puppy.  When Betty is out and about (which is about 90% of the time) she is into EVERYTHING!  I spend my time redirecting her and our other dogs that she has gotten worked up.  So, I leave work and my constant dialog of "What are you doing?  Put that away!  Stop bugging her!  Keep your hands to yourself!  Don't touch that!"  To my house dialog of "Stop that!  Drop it!  Leave her alone!  What's that in your mouth?  Play with this!  What are you chewing on?"  It's like work just rolled seamlessly into my house......sigh....  BUT!! isn't she the cutest puppy?  I love her!!

I'm hoping that you noticed my new acquisition in one of Betty's's silver and has blue ornaments!  Here's a better picture of it.
Yes, it's a 50's Aluminum Christmas Tree!  I have been wanting one of these for YEARS!  I love Mid Century Modern and this fits that to a tee.  I actually, got this bad boy back in May and I have been waiting since then to surprise my husband, Jeff, with it. Seriously, I had a plan totally worked out.  I knew he would go to the gym on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  The minute he was out the door, I was busy setting this up.  I was SUPER excited!  I hadn't got the ornaments on by the time he pulled into the driveway but it was up and the lights were on.  

Jeff walked into the house and he immediately noticed the giant smile on my face.  "Why are you grinning like that?" he asked.  I explained that I had a HUGE surprise and I led him into the front room.  Jeff was expressionless when he saw the tree.  In my excitement I blurted, "OMG 1957 Aluminum Christmas Tree!"  Still expressionless he said, "You know I don't like fake trees."  Uggghhhhh!!  Why did I marry him?!  AND...He knows that we always get a giant real tree for the family room.

Okay, time to talk about knitting.  I LOVE lace knitting.  Even though I'm never going to wear any of it I really enjoy knitting and designing the stuff.  There is something about all the different combination of stitches that is mesmerizing to me.  I also love how it looks awful until you block it.  Then, as you stretch it out and pin it down, the pattern reveals its self.  It's such a magical moment.  Here is my take on a wedding ring shawl.  It's called Estonian Wedding Ring Shawl (imagine that).

Now, I know this looks SUPER complicated but it's not.  However, you have got to love nupps.  This thing is chock-full of the little buggers.  Here are the pictures of my test knit before and after blocking.

The thing is HUGE!  However, it was a blast to knit.  What's really interesting is that the version the test knitter did for Knit Picks (pictured with the model) wasn't as big as mine.  I'm thinking it's because I'm such a loose knitter.

Now, if you look closely, in the left hand corner, you can see that I had a blow out.  It appears that I had a split stitch there and when I stretched it for blocking, the stitch broke.  So, I had to get the crochet needle and pick up the stitches and fix it.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with this thing.  It's been living in the guest room since I blocked it.  Oh, it did make a trip to the Men's knitting retreat a year ago.  I think I'll just let it alone until some female member of my family shows me that they are worthy of this shawl.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

So, I'm not going to pretend that I remember how long it's been since I actually posted anything.  Well, I mean, I guess I could actually look at my blog and see the last date that I posted something but that would bring on Catholic Guilt.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Catholic Guilt is bad; it's just uncomfortable AND... it makes me fell like I need to call my mother.  Well...not that calling my mother would be bad; it's just that doing so would make me feel uncomfortable...
Oh God, here we go, the unending spiral of Catholic Guilt.  Really, it's got to be in my DNA.  I mean I feel as though I'm sliding down a double helix of terrible juxtapositions.  Okay....wait....I said my morning prayers, I dusted the box that my rosary is in and I thought about going to church with my goddaughter tomorrow.  Those three things should help me break the spiral of Catholic Guilt for just a moment or two.....wait.....focus.....focus......
Ahhh....My man Francis to the rescue!!  Really, this dude is great.  He's my main Catholic man.  If only Paul Ryan, a fellow Catholic, would follow the teachings of St. Francis, maybe our country would be in a better place.  OOOOOH.....WAIT...I just mixed politics and religion...Time to Stop!

Okay, lets talk about kids.  As some of you may remember, I teach math.

Now, I know this is what you are thinking when I say math

But really, this is what's going on:

 The problem is that the majority of us experienced mathematics instruction from this:
LOUISE....  If you don't remember, Louise is the person that runs my committee.  You know, the one that wakes me up at three in the morning and tells me what an awful job I do at life.  She and I are really old acquaintances.  Little did you realize, but you also know Louise.  Well, she may not be named Louise.  Hell she may actually be male and named Reggie.  What's important here is that we learned math from people who told us/implied that we weren't smart if we didn't understand what they were explaining.  My favourite memory of Louise is when I asked her where Pi came from and why it works.  "IT JUST DOES!  PUT IT INTO THE EQUATION!"  
God, I hated math.  Of course, it didn't end there for me.  My dad was a mathematician.  Now, I use that term loosely.  He is one of Lousie's ilk.  The kind that don't question and are just concerned with procedural fluency; what I like to call plug and play.  They really don't know why things work or where they come from.  All they know is how to make the recipe.  Throw in another variable...(get it..variable...) they don't know what to do. 
It was brutal at my house.  Lots of let me show you 15 ways to get that answer while telling you how smart I am at math and never really answering your question.  OMG!  It was just like school.  

So, fast forward to today.  Why do I teach math considering Louise and my dad both ganging up on me, making me feel stupid in math?  It's because of teachers.  Yup, Teachers!  However, not the Louise type.  

I was required to take math in college.  I dreaded having to do it and put if off to the last possible semester.  I ended up in a woman's class that was not at all like what I was used to.  She ACTUALLY explained how things worked and where they came from.  It was mind blowing.  I can totally picture her but I can't remember her name.  God Bless Her.  She is the one that started me on the path to becoming a math teacher.  The final push came from a professor at Portland State University, Ted Nelson.  At the time, I was a special education teacher and I had my own pull out math class for students with learning disabilities in math.  A colleague  of mine got me to take a class from Ted on teaching problem solving for middle school teachers.  It was amazing.  Ted made me tap into my inner puzzle solver and to really start to connect to the WHY of math.  Here it was for me; I would become a math teacher different from the others and help kids learn to love math!
Fast forward to today and that's what I'm doing!  Guess what!  I still love it.  

This year my kids are extra special.  I don't know how it worked out but they are super sweet.  For example, the other day, I was teaching a lesson, working with algebra tiles under the document camera (for those not in the know, algebra tiles are basically blocks that represent math; imagine that, geometry and algebra collide..wait..aren't they both math?)  The phone rang and I asked a student to answer it since I was so involved.  "Mr. Hunni-nut's Room", she said.  So, if you don't know by now, my last name is Hunnicutt.  Having such a name has left me at the mercy of many a childhood trauma..Hunnibutt, Hunnibarf, Hunnibucket...etc.  You get the idea.  However, at my age, I'm really over it and I've heard them all.  My student got off the phone and said, "I'm so sorry Mr. Hunnicutt.  I couldn't help myself.  It was just so funny."  I told her not to worry, that I had heard it all before. that point they all started in, making tons of variations on my name.  They had so much fun.  But the biggest thing that occurred to me was that they had really never thought about making fun of my name.  REALLY?  I couldn't believe it.  I actually stopped the class and told them that if they were not making fun of their teachers from the time they walked in the door of their first year at our school, then we were not doing our jobs.  Seriously, when I was I kid, we always respected our teachers but we also always made fun of them.  It's expected!  Well, I'm proud to say that my kids report that they are happily making fun of their teachers this year.  I am patting myself on the back at this moment.

Okay, now let's get down to some serious business....KNITTING!  Whilst I have been not blogging, I have been doing some serious knitting.  Here is a pattern that I'm particularly fond of. This is the Traditional Gansey that I knit for Knit Picks.  I actually knit it for my husband Jeff.  He got the original.  I don't know who the model is but my pattern works well on him.

This is a dream knit.  It's supper easy and it's all done without seams!!!  I designed it so that you knit it from the bottom up.  When you get to the gusset, you split it into front and back.  You then knit them separately and put the stitches on holders.  Next you knit the shoulder strap from the neck down, connecting the front and back.  When you get to the edge of the armhole, you pick up the stitches for the sleeve and continue the pattern down to the cuff.  Lastly, you pick up the neck stitches and knit the collar.  Really, it's not that bad.  Give it a shot.  There is some person in your life that would love a traditional gansey like this!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Teaching and My New Pattern, Shetland Rose.

I love and hate teaching at the same time.  It truly is a job not for the faint of heart.  You have to be teacher, counselor, parent, and confidant to, in my case, 189 students.  This year has been a difficult year for me.  I have one of the worst mixes of children ever.  On their own, the majority are great kids.  However, the current combination of the little babies takes them from cherubic status to that of demi demon.  Many days I just want to stab myself in the face because it would be less painful than trying to teach.

Even though my days are difficult, I am still rewarded with some amazing moments.  To understand one of these moments, I have to give you a little background information.   Here in Portland, OR, we have lots of water and there are many open reservoirs in parks around town.  Of course, the reservoirs are fenced and they have security cameras.  We didn't have any issues until recently when an inebriated individual jumped the fence and urinated in one of the reservoirs.  In typical hysteria, the City drained the entire reservoir.  So, we wasted 38 million gallons of water over a cup of pee.  This caused a huge scandal here in Portland were we are Super eco friendly.

Okay, back to teaching.  The 8th graders are on a civics unit and they are studying impeachment.  Richard Nixon came up in association with the Watergate Scandal.  One young lady blurted, "He peed in the water?  A president peed in peoples' water?"  After drying my tears from laughing so hard, we explained what really happened.  She replied, "Oh, I thought Watergate was like the fence and gate around the reservoir."  I actually understand her confusion too.  I was eight when all that was going on and I wanted to know what a watergate looked like and how it worked.  Was it a gate made of water and how did they make the water hard to make it open and close.  This was also similar to guerrilla warfare.  As a child I wanted to know why they made all of those gorillas go to war and how did they train them to shoot a gun.

Another great gem came from a sophomore boy named Sam.  He raised his hand and said, "Mr. Hunnicutt, my urineatory system is telling me that I have to go to the bathroom."  "Well," I said.  "I'm not a science teacher but I'm pretty sure that you don't have a "urineatory system"."  After much laughter, we established that it was his excretory system that he wanted to relieve. 

Oh those kids!!!

Okay, on to knitting.  If you don't know, I actually design knitwear.  Most of what I have done has been done for Knit Picks.  It's very difficult to for me because I really want to talk about what I'm knitting but I can't until the pattern is released.  Well, here is one that just got released on the 5th.  It's called Shetland Rose.
 Isn't it FAB??!!!
This was a great knit.  It's done totally in one piece and knit from the bottom up and it's filled with lots of little extras like these.

 The inside of the button band, collar and cuff is a delicate little pattern that adds a nice contrast to the rest of the pattern.

Then, there is the gusset and the sleeve.

The gusset has its own pattern and the contrasting colours are carried down the sleeve.  I love little details.  They just make the sweater more interesting.

Personally, I think this is my best design to date and I appreciate how it made me think.  Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Treck Across the South and Ms. Walker's Page 19.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to drive my mother from Houston, Texas, to New Orleans, Louisiana.  The occasion was my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary.  Now, I know I said that this was an opportunity but really, it was more of a directive from my mother.  It went something like this.

Me: "So, mom, should we meet in New Orleans for Mimi and John's party?"
Mom: "Oh honey, you know how much I don't like flying."
Me:  "Mom, it's a 45 minute flight."
Mom:  "I know but it's still hard on me."
Me:  "Are you thinking about driving."
Mom:  "Well, I was thinking you could fly here and then we could drive to your Aunt and Uncle's party."
Me:  "...................................... Uh........................."

Yup, that's about it.  There was much more to the conversation after that but I won't bore you with the details.  It was pretty much me stumbling around trying to figure a way out, knowing that my mother had trapped me into a visit and a 12 hour round trip drive.

Now, if you have followed my family adventures, you know that my mother is a very healthy, active 74 year-old (I know this because I've talked to her doctors).  However, she will make you think that she's about 92 and, apparently, people who think that they are that old cannot possibly fly.

I did try several times to get her to fly but nothing worked.  The closest I got was when I suggested that she chose a favourite pill, from her impressive collection of sedatives, with me in tow on the plane.  However, even the lure of a chemical haze while being supported by a loving son was not enough.

So, the stage is set; my mother and me driving across the South in August.  What could be more fun?  Well, I have the answer for you.  My mother, my sister and me driving across the South in August.

Enter, the Sister, my baby sister to be exact.  You know, my sister isn't all that bad; she's just on a different plane than the rest of us.  This is mostly due to her job as a professor of gender studies.

If you don't have a college professor in your life, then you probably don't know that they really do live in an ivory tower.  Universities tend to be little islands of liberal academics, all of whom have perfect politics, and a comfy collection of Berkinstocks.  Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge my sister any of it.  She did, after all, work really damn hard for many years to get to this point.  However, I do wish she would come down to the real world on occasion.

Now, let's think about the conversation in that car for 12 hours.  Here are the players again,  my mother, who thinks she's too old to do anything, my super liberal, super vegan sister and me, a loser mo who likes meat and potty humour.  Well, like any other self respecting loser mo, I saw the potential for trouble early on and decided that a constant barrage of potty humour would save the day and my sanity.  Guess what, it did!  Both my mother and sister are very critical of potty humour; however, if you don't cave, and continue to be inappropriate, they eventually quiet down so as not to elicit more fart or poop jokes.  Works like a charm.  I just need to figure out a way to use this method at holiday meals.

The drive wasn't all that bad in reality.  Texas is a hot hell hole and Louisiana is a hot hell hole.  However, at least Louisiana is a pretty hell hole.  It's true; everything is really ugly as you drive through Texas.  Then, about a mile into Louisiana, it's pretty.  I don't know what gives but Texas really needs to take a cue from their neighbour.

We left early on a Friday morning and got to the North Shore about seven hours later.  For those who are not familiar with New Orleans, the North Shore is across Lake Pontchartrain, basically, the burbs.  It's a very pretty place.  A bit steamy and jungle like but pretty.

Now, the next bit o'fun was the hotel.  My mother decided that we had to stay at the La Quinta near my aunt's house.  While this is not my favourite hotel chain, I was okay with the choice for two nights until my mother informed my sister and I that we would all be sharing one room.  (Enter memories from childhood of being crammed into a hotel room with your parents and siblings. Me trying to sleep while while I listen to my dad snore and fart in his sleep and me being kicked by my sleeping sister.)

Mom:  "I got a suite.  It has a king bed and a pull out sofa."
Me:  "........................Uh....................."

Okay, so crammed into a car only to be crammed into a hotel room with a bathroom as the only private space.  All I can say is that Prince Valium and I were very good friends.

I survived and my Aunt and Uncle's party was a hit.  Here are a few pictures.  The first is my Aunt and my Uncle dancing.  Aren't they cute!  Next is my mother, her sister and their cousins.  My mom is the one sitting and my Aunt is standing behind her.

Next up, me and my sister with our aunt and a picture of the cake.  Now this cake has a neat story.  The bakery that the cake came from was the same that my mother got her wedding cake from back in 1961.  The bakery is run by the granddaughter now but, Mamma says that the cake tastes just as good and that the layers were the same as her cake.  How cool is that?  My sister and I got to taste our parents' wedding cake in a round about fashion.

Okay, enough family fun.  On to Babs and page 19 of her book.  Now, page 19 has several patterns on it.  One set goes onto page 20.  For this installment, I stuck with those patterns that were on page 19 only.  Those that are on 19 and 20 both are saved for next time.

Swedish Block Pattern and Squared Check Pattern.  So, I always end up knitting these backwards.  The Swedish Block Pattern is the bottom half and Squared Check Pattern is the top half. 

These two patterns weren't too bad to knit.  I actually think both have uses.  The sample is not blocked.  Now that I look at the pictures, I wish I had blocked it.  I think blocking would really bring out the patterns' qualities.

Mostly, I see these patterns used for sweaters.  These combined with traditional gansey patterns would definitely liven things up by adding a new twist to the patterned sections.  Also, I think that they would look much better knit with finer yarn.  The yarn I'm using is a pretty fat worsted.

Here is the backside.  I am always interested to see if a pattern is reversible.  In the case of Swedish Block Pattern, I'm thinking not so much.  However, with the Squared Check Pattern you may be able to get away with it.

Well, off to work on page 20.  My next post will be a fun combination of a recap of the Men's Fall Knitting Retreat and the opening of school.  That's right; it's back to work for me and more middle school antics.